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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 13. September 12, 1957

Dramatics.... — "I Am A Camera"

page 5


"I Am A Camera"

"I am a Camera" is adapted from Christopher Isherwood's vivid evocation of pre-war Germany, "Good-bye to Berlin. Scenario rather than dialogue is supplied by John van Druten, a playwright of limited talent who has in the past reached a considerable public through sheer ability as an entertainer From the Berlin stories, van Druten has constructed a somewhat unwieldy play that does, however, provide a convenient framework for Isherwood's fresh and incisive prose. "The borzoi couldn't catch the roe, although it seemed to be going much the faster of the two, moving in long, graceful bounds, while the roc went bucketing over the earth with wild rigid jerks, like a grand piano bewitched." This perfect felicity clearly lies outside van Druten's normal range and he wisely incorporates as much of the original prose as possible.

Isherwood's "camera with its shutters open, quite passive, recording not thinking" takes its impressions sensitively and with great accuracy in the novel and one doubts whether van Druten's play is a suitable darkroom for developing and mounting them. As an "adaptation" the play starts at a disadvantage. It lacks the coherence and inevitability of drama that has been shaped organically. Characters and incidents do not develop through any inner necessity—they merely turn up, episodic and rather slavishly following the order of the original stories. To avoid this inherent shapelessness, it is vital for a production of this play to impose its own rhythm, to emphasise light and shade and significant situations. The Drama Club production unfortunately failed to achieve this kind of interpretation. All scenes were taken at the same speed and, allowing for a cast who were at times uncertain of their cues, one still longed for a more spirited interpretation of situations that were clearly good "theatre." To give an example, the scene in which the boisterous extrovert Clive insists that Sally and Christopher accompany him on a world tour is curiously underplayed and falls flat.

On the whole the cast were responsible for some agreeably lively acting. Mr. John Dawick was a gallant near-success in the difficult role of Christopher Isherwood, who both solilloquizes on the action and remains involved in it. His ambiguous relationship with Sally was suggested with subtlety and made entirely credible. Miss Elizabeth Gordon played Sally [unclear: cnccinte] and crest-fallen with considerable charm and poise and seemed content to suggest that the demimondaine sophistication was little more than a pose. In the part, of the wealthy Jewess Natalia. Miss Donella Palmer was forceful and at times quite moving; Mr. Graeme Eton as Fritz had considerable stage presence but was perhaps a little too Semitic. The skilful permanent set with its incredibly depressing wallpaper evoked an appropriately blowsy and decrepit atmosphere into which Miss Diana Spurdle fitted nicely as a buxom landlady.

Miss Ann Flannery, the producer, deserves credit for this pleasant and entertaining production. But one hopes that the Drama Club is not contemplating a regular diet of commercially successful playwrights of the calibre of Mr. van Druten.

—Ian Laurenson.